Friday 24 May 2019

Galway could call on McDonagh for league decider against Rebelettes

Galway's Áine McDonagh. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Galway's Áine McDonagh. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Galway's Áine McDonagh is in line for a recall as her county prepare for the Lidl NFL Division 1 final with Cork on Sunday.

Galway clash with the Rebels at Parnell Park in search of their first league title.

Moycullen midfielder McDonagh is back in contention for the decider having only featured in the league victory over Mayo in March.

"Áine has only played one league game. She picked up a foot injury in the O'Connor Cup final and played on through the injury," said Galway manager Tim Rabbitte.

"That has led to her being longer out with it but she is back with us the last two weeks. She is definitely an option for Sunday.

"Nicola Ward has been training away with us for the last four or five weeks but she is only back on the pitch sessions for the last week or two. She has been out for quite a long time. It is a longer-term thing.


"Ailbhe Davoren is back running on the pitch again. But she is another girl that will be quite a while before she gets back on the road. Outside of that we are good to go."

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Rabbitte is in his first year as manager of the Galway seniors, having previously featured in Stephen Glennon's backroom team.

The Oranmore-Maree clubman managed the Athenry footballers for four years before he got involved in the Galway U-21 set-up under the management of Gerry Fahey, helping them to an All-Ireland U-21 final where they lost to Dublin in 2017.

He then went back to the Oranmore-Maree footballers but is now looking to help the Galway ladies make history in Sunday's final.

"We are delighted with the effort and attitude of the girls, from the day that we came," said Rabbitte.

"This is the third year that the basis of this squad has been together. Stephen put a lot of really good structures in place and the girls have continued that on.

"The fact that this is our third year, we are seeing a lot of stability in our preparation and that is leading on to solid performances on the field.

"The league has been great and we would like to top it off on Sunday, but that is another job."

Galway defeated Cork 1-8 to 0-5 in the opening round on February 2 but last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists have improved since then.

They were victorious against reigning champions Dublin twice in two matches, including their gruelling 1-18 to 2-14 extra-time semi-final success.

Galway cruised through to the final after a comfortable 1-12 to 1-5 victory over Donegal.

"Cork are a super team, they have been for quite a long time in ladies football. They have been a powerhouse," said Rabbitte.

"They had only had half of a team when we played them. It won't really have much relevance."

Up against McDonagh on Sunday will be Niamh Cotter, who admits that she isn't a fun person to be around this week, with exams on the agenda.

Her third league title with Cork would be a personal achievement on its own, after she took a year out from the game to concentrate on her studies in Canada.

Now 22, Cotter is in her final year of Law at UCC, but has only two of her five exams completed.

She won't put the pen down until next Thursday.

"I will be an anti-Christ for the week," said Cotter.

"But my mum is going mad altogether because my brother is doing his Leaving Cert, I am in my final year and my sister is doing her exams in Pharmacy as well.

"My mum will be more relieved than all of us when this is over."

Cotter is from Glengarriff, a small village in west Cork, and she plays for the Beara club.

She is still so young in footballing terms and has already won an All-Ireland, when she was part of the extended Cork panel in 2016.

During her formative years she fell in love with athletics and basketball, as well as ladies football.

Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí gave her the basis for her athletics career, and coming second in the 3,000m All-Ireland helped to spark interest in the USA, where Notre Dame signalled their interest.

But having entered the Cork minor set-up, and learned what it felt like to be part of a team, the rangy midfielder chose to turn down a potential scholarship abroad.

She headed for UCC instead and continued playing basketball on the side.


But Law and football are her two main interests right now. As part of her degree she had to go on Erasmus last year, and Cotter chose Université de Montréal.

"We lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Mayo in 2017 and I had to fly out the following morning," said Cotter.

"I was bawling for the next 24 hours. I thought about losing the match and if we got to the final I was going to be flying home in a week and a half. I wasn't prepared to be heading off for the year. It was an emotional 24 hours, but I would be emotional at the best of times."

Cotter is back in the engine room of the Cork midfield, and she has been an inspirational figure in their drive to the final. She added: "This is a massive opportunity for us to say we haven't gone away and we are serious contenders again this year."

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